I WANT THAT! How We All Became Shoppers

Thomas Hine, Author
Thomas Hine, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-018511-4
Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 12/01/2002
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-06-095983-8
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From the Mall of America to e-commerce, it seems shopping is more than a casual activity for most Americans. Although some believe that the rise of advertising and strip malls have fostered slavish devotion to shopping where it didn't exist before, Hine posits that the acquisition of objects has a firm place in humanity's history. A columnist for Philadelphia magazine and the cultural critic who coined the term "populuxe," Hine offers fresh insight into why we shop and how we are—in some ways—born to do so. Throughout recorded time, he states, shopping has allowed people to show their position in society and to gain a sense of personal control over their surroundings. Given shopping's rich and enduring history, it makes sense that people in the developed world now have such a preponderance of products to buy, and that they're marketed to appeal not to our needs but our desire for acceptance, attractiveness and power. Hine is a jaunty writer who breaks down an unwieldy topic into a thoughtful cultural riff. Although he touches on shopping's psychological effects (especially with those who seem addicted to it), Hine mainly refrains from assigning a positive or negative judgment. Instead, he delivers a balanced and entertaining analysis of how we arrived at our shopping-drenched state, and what those ringing cash registers really say about us. Photos. (Dec.)

Forecast: This critique of a popular culture phenomenon could have a general readership, thanks to Hine's easy, nonjudgmental approach. Having the pub date coincide with the biggest shopping month of the year is a nice touch.

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